City of Los Angeles Mills Act Program | Los Angeles Conservancy
Eastern Columbia Lofts in DTLA, a Mills Act recipient. Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

City of Los Angeles Mills Act Program

UPDATE: On August 8, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. the City's Office of Historic Resources (OHR) hosted a second Mills Act Workshop for those who were not able to attend the July 21 Cultural Heritage Commission meeting. This was the second opportunity for the general public to hear OHR's presentation of the series of independent recommendations to the City for reactivating the Mills Act program. During this workshop, the public was able to provide verbal public comments.

All public comments are due by September 1st and may be submitted through the City's online form.

The City is starting the process to assess these recommendations to determine which ones might move forward through a formal amendment to the Mills Act program, as part of its future reactivation.

We strongly encourage all interested parties to submit your feedback and thoughts directly to the City as they determine which recommendations to move forward when the Mills Act program is reactivated in the near future. 


The Mills Act program is one of the most powerful historic preservation incentives for property owners. Enabled by state legislation in 1972 and adopted by the City of Los Angeles in 1996, the Mills Act offers a property tax abatement through a revolving 10-year contract between the City and the property owner, with automatic renewal each year. These contracts are transferred to new ownership when the property is sold. Since 2020, the City has not accepted new contracts while the program was assessed.

Today, combined Mills Act property owners in Los Angeles save over $20M in taxes. These savings are meant to be reinvested into rehabilitating and maintaining historic properties.

Due to the success of the program, the total number of contracts has expanded beyond the capacity of City staff to properly administer the program. In 2020, Los Angeles City Planning contracted with historic preservation consultant Chattel, Inc. and sub-consultant AECOM to conduct a comprehensive assessment to evaluate the program and provide recommendations for future viability. The assessment analyzes staffing requirements, revenue streams to support the program, and the allocation of property tax savings among existing contracts to inform a more equitable distribution of program participation across the City.

The assessment found that current funding is insufficient to effectively manage the number of contracts and to bring the program into complete compliance with state law. To date, the City has completed approximately only 25 percent of the inspections required annually, leaving many historic properties at risk of undergoing unpermitted alterations. Currently, the City only employs two staff, who dedicate less than half their time to the program due to other responsibilities.

A key component of the assessment looked at the program’s equity to better understand which communities have benefitted the most and least. The largest number of contracts -- 71 percent or 659 properties -- are for single-family properties located in communities facing “low barriers to opportunity.” Despite the size, only 25% of savings went to these properties. The bulk of Mills Act savings went to multi-family and commercial properties. The assessment concluded that contracts are disproportionately benefitting property owners in communities with lower barriers to opportunity with 83 percent of savings going to these communities.

Recommendations:

Through the assessment a number of recommendations were provided for program sustainability and program equity. These are broken down into goals and strategies for each. Some of the most notable recommendations include the following.

Program Sustainability

  • Expanding staffing
  • Enacting a cap of 1,500 Mills Act contracts with 25 new contracts per year
  • Revise contract term limits to be 20 years for new contracts and not renew existing contracts older than 10 years
  • Eliminate the annual threshold of unrealized property tax revenue
  • Increase pre-contract assessed value limit for single-family dwellings from $1.5 to $2.5 million and increase multifamily buildings to $10 million
  • Revise eligibility requirements to include National and California Register listed properties, SurveyLA identified eligible properties, and CPA, CPIO, and CDO identified properties.

Program Equity:

  • Retain and preserve affordable multi-family housing by prioritizing multi-family properties and adaptive reuse projects with affordable housing
  • Implement tenant anti-displacement safeguard measures
  • Expand Mills Act benefits in areas facing higher barrier to opportunity through outreach to underserved areas and lessening barrier to program participation
 
For the entire assessment and list of recommendations visit the City of Los Angeles Planning Department Mills Act webpage.

ONE: Review the proposed recommendations and submit your feedback and thoughts directly to the City as they determine which recommendations to move forward by September 1, 2022.